The world of organized crime is one considered to be inhabited by individuals who are a cut above the rest. People who can work together to achieve a goal, think out of the box, who can rob and murder and protect their newfound riches through sheer strength. What separates them from other criminals is stated right there in the label “organized crime,” they are organized.
Of course, not all of those people involved in organized crime live up to their reputation. Gangsters Inc. decided to take a look back and make a list of five dumb moves made by members and hang arounds of the criminal underworld.
Number 5: John Gotti invites everyone for an FBI photo-op
John Gotti. The man, the myth, the legend. The Dapper Don. But most of all the Gambino boss whose biggest sin was vanity. And for a guy who was a murderer, thief, drug dealer, and womanizer: that’s saying something.
When Gotti shot himself to the top of the Gambino crime family by eliminating his predecessor Paul Castellano, he made sure everyone got the message that he was the new boss. And not just any boss, but the one on the cover of all the magazines. Every evening around 5 p.m., Gotti would show up at the Ravenite social club in Manhattan’s Little Italy in a chauffeured Mercedes Benz.
As he got out a scene awaited him that was more fitting for a rock star than a crime boss. As Peter Maas wrote in his book Underboss: Sammy the Bull Gravano’s Story of Life in the Mafia, “Made members and associates would be lined up outside to greet him with hugs and kisses. Gawkers crowded the opposite side of Mulberry Street to catch a glimpse of the great man, who would flash a smile and respond with a thumbs-up wave. About all that was missing was to list him in the guidebooks as one of the city’s major tourist attractions.”
If you are running one of the city’s major organized crime families being a tourist attraction is not what you want. And if you are a member of said crime family then you certainly do not want to come see your boss in front of a crowd filled with cameras and, God forbid, members of various law enforcement agencies. But not showing to pay your respect at one of these evenings wasn’t an option. John Gotti (right) did not care about the FBI or cameras outside, he wanted you to come see him, when he told you to come see him. Those who refused to do so were dealt with in brutal fashion. Or, as Gotti himself put it, “Louie DiBono [a Gambino soldier]. You know why he's dying? He's gonna die because he refused to come in when I called. He didn't do nothing else wrong.”
Gotti’s flashy behavior made him a perfect target for the government. Thanks to his public meetings they were able to photograph and document many unknown members and associates of the Gambino family. It provided them with evidence for years to come. It also provided them with evidence of Gotti’s powerful standing within the New York mafia.
Weird as it may sound, law enforcement does not automatically arrest any person that breaks the law. They arrest those criminals who give them one more reason to slap the handcuffs on them. It could be any reason, but visibility is an important one. And no one was more visible and in your face than John Gotti in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He’s gone now. Died in prison. But we still have plenty of pictures.
Number 4: Joey Gallo decides to take on an entire Mafia Family
They called him “Crazy Joe” and when he decided to take on an entire mafia family with his small crew comprised of his tough brothers, a few hitters, a bunch of mob wannabe’s, and a dwarf he showed the world why he got his nickname.
For the record: Joseph Gallo was one of the toughest gangsters walking around New York in the 1960s and 70s. No doubt about that, no discussion needed. But a short stay at a psych ward and his brash, outlandish behavior quickly earned him the “Crazy Joe” moniker.
Instead of using his intellect, which he did possess, Gallo preferred to use his muscle, even when the situation did not call for it. After taking control of the jukebox and vending-machine racket in New York, Gallo set up a union and demanded his dues. The takeover and demands went hand in hand with Gallo and his thugs delivering some bloody violence to anyone who might disagree.
Joseph Valachi, a soldier in the Genovese family, operated in the same racket and for $79 dollars every three months became a union member. Valachi would lend people money and instead of demanding payment, he’d put in a machine that’d spit out weekly payments. It stayed put until his customer decided to repay the loan. Simple and effective. Or, as Valachi put it, “Joe Gallo was nuts using that rough stuff. That’s why they started calling him Crazy Joe. Look what it got him.”
It eventually got him several years in prison on an extortion rap.
Just a minor bump on the road to establishing his criminal empire. Ever since participating in the murder of infamous family boss Albert Anastasia Joey Gallo (left) felt like he deserved more out of mob life. More money. More power. Definitely more respect. Though there is an I in ‘mafia’ there is no I in ‘team’ or ‘brotherhood’, and despite actions proving otherwise, the mob still views itself as a family in which individual members serve the greater good of the entire group.
Crazy Joe disagreed.
To emphasize his point in 1961 Gallo ordered his crew to kidnap the entire leadership of the Profaci crime family so he would be given a larger share of the rackets. They succeeded in getting everyone except for the most important piece on the chessboard: the king. Boss Joe Profaci was still on the streets and steaming at such a bold display of disrespect by one of his own soldiers. After negotiating the release of the mob leaders, the Gallo crew was indeed given a larger piece of a few rackets. Profaci, meanwhile, spent every minute plotting his revenge.
Whether Gallo actually thought everything would be peachy as soon as he released his hostages is unknown, but it was a huge mistake on his part to not commit to the war against Profaci. Had he killed several family leaders, he could’ve had a chance to seize power, like many other gangsters had done in the past. By kidnapping and releasing his victims he set the stage for an ass whooping, one that Profaci was all too eager to dish out.
Profaci hitters took out Gallo enforcer Joseph Gioelli several months later, his clothing stuffed with dead fish they dumped his corpse at a Gallo hangout. Crazy Joe’s brother Larry was next. He was lured to a meeting in Brooklyn. What happened next has been turned into a scene in mafia classic The Godfather II. Profaci’s men tried to strangle Larry, but were forced to quit their attempt when a policeman walked in on them by pure coincidence.
After the failed hit, the Gallo crew barricaded themselves in their headquarters on President Street. It was then that Crazy Joe realized fighting a mob war costs money. And that it is hard to make money while involved in a mob war. After putting the squeeze on the wrong citizen he was sent to prison on an extortion charge just like that the war ended.
In prison, Gallo read a lot of books, eager to impress the friends he made in the art world of Greenwich Village. He also struck up friendships with black inmates, thinking about possibly creating a new crime family which included African-Americans. Joey Gallo was not looking to sit back and take it easy.
When he was released in 1971, he told Profaci’s successor, Joseph Colombo, that the war was still on. Either Gallo’s demands would be granted or Gallo would murder an entire mob family standing in his way. He was immediately declared Mafia Enemy Number One.
Surprisingly, Joseph Colombo died first. Shot in the head at a civil rights rally at Columbus Circle in Manhattan. The gunman was Jerome A. Johnson, an African-American who posed as a photographer. Colombo's bodyguards immediately shot and killed the assassin. Colombo slipped into a coma and never woke up ever again. Because of Johnson’s ethnicity, the mob immediately linked the murder to the Gallo crew. Enough was enough.
On April 7, 1972, at 4:30 a.m., Gallo and his family entered Umberto's Clam House in Little Italy, Manhattan, to celebrate his 43rd birthday. It would be his last. Gunmen entered the restaurant guns blazing and left Gallo no other chance but to absorb bullets away from his beloved family. Mortally wounded Crazy Joe stumbled out onto the street where he collapsed. The war was over.
Number 3: The dumbest hit in Philadelphia mob history
Due to too much heat from law enforcement the American mob has drastically lowered the use of murder as a trick of their trade. Sure, guys still get killed here and there but not like they were in the decades leading up to the 1990s. After every Mafioso and his brother decided to flip and join Team America, murder has become a rarity in ‘the life.’ And it seems that the lack of training is influencing the professionalism of mob hit men.
During the 1980s and 1990s, members of the Philadelphia La Cosa Nostra family were able to practice killing every week. After their boss Angelo Bruno, a.k.a. The Docile Don, was whacked in front of his house, the crime family descended into a period of mayhem and insanity. Plenty of bodies had already dropped when Nicky Scarfo (right) took over as leader, but those were only an appetizer of what was to come as it turned out Scarfo would murder his own mother if she looked at him funny.
After Scarfo was shipped off to prison the Philly family was split into two factions. One led by the Sicilian John Stanfa and the other led by Joey Merlino, who refused to accept Stanfa as his boss. During the war that followed, the Philadelphia mobsters again got their fair share of target practice and lessons in evasion, stalking, and “getting away with murder.”
But since the war came to a close in the late 1990s things have been relatively quiet. Still, it being the Philly family and all, murders do occur. It’s just gotten to a point where not much thought seems to have gone into the planning.
Philadelphia soldier Anthony Nicodemo (left) is alleged to have had a successful start at murder. Authorities believe he was responsible for the killing of Philly associate John “Johnny Gongs” Casasanto in 2003, but were unable to dig up enough evidence to go to trial. They also allege that this hit got Nicodemo “made” in the La Cosa Nostra family of Philadelphia.
In the years that followed, law enforcement kept a sharp eye on Nicodemo (as they do with all of the Philly crime family remnants) and within a few years he was charged with running a sports bookmaking ring inside the Borgata Hotel Casino poker room in Atlantic City to which he pleaded guilty in 2009.
After getting all of that out of the way, Nicodemo went right back to the world of illegal gambling. And this didn’t go by unnoticed. It is rumored authorities were working on yet another indictment to take him off the streets.
But why make investigators work for their money? Why shouldn’t Nicodemo just make it easy? “They want to lock me up for good? Why wait?” Nicodemo seemed to have been thinking. Because his actions on December 12, 2012, were like an early Christmas present for the Philly police.
That day, around 3 p.m., Nicodemo allegedly drove his car to the South Philadelphia home of Gino DiPietro, a mob associate who did time in prison for drug dealing and who, according to street gossip, was working as an informant. It was later confirmed that he indeed had been a confidential informant and had helped put his younger cousin in prison by wearing a body wire.
It’s enough to make an up-and-coming mobster’s blood boil, to make him do crazy things. A gunman wearing a ski mask walked up to DiPietro and opened fire as he was getting into his car. He was hit several times in the back and was pronounced dead at 3:21 p.m.
As cops arrived on the scene and started questioning witnesses they quickly found their way to Nicodemo’s home in nearby Packer Street. His car, a Honda SUV, was seen fleeing the crime scene. He had parked it right where he was living and as cops searched the vehicle they found a gun inside.
Charged with first degree murder Nicodemo now faces life in prison or a potential death sentence. An interesting part about his indictment is that he also faces conspiracy charges which indicate authorities believe he was not solely responsible for the murder of DiPietro. He perhaps had a partner who either drove the car or pulled the trigger.
Another thing to keep in mind is that while this murder occurred, the entire leadership of the Philadelphia family was under indictment and awaiting trial on racketeering charges. If word of DiPietro’s informant past got out someone may have decided it was safer to take him out of the picture all together instead of running the risk he might one day point his finger at them in court.
Regardless of who ordered the murder or pulled the trigger, to use your own car during a hit on an informant and then parking it near your house with the, still, smoking gun aboard while the blood of the victim is still a liquid puddle on the Philadelphia streets is idiotic. The dumbest hit in Philadelphia mob history by a landslide.
Number 2: Husband and wife rob Mafia social clubs as a hobby
So look, there are worse things you can do as husband and wife. Watch The Real Housewives of New York, for example. Or smoke meth behind a Dunkin’ Donuts. But right up there with those two things is robbing social clubs owned and run by the five New York Mafia families.
Tommy and Rosemarie Uva, “a young, married couple in New York, wrote their own page into criminal lore by imprinting a special stamp on the phenomenon and became the first people to commit suicide by mob,” Thom L. Jones wrote in his excellent and very detailed piece about this episode in mob history.
A mob social club is where members and associates of organized crime can get together and relax or plan new schemes without worrying about law enforcement or the public. It’s a place where they are among equals, a place where they are safe.
So imagine their shock and surprise when a man came rushing through the door brandishing an Uzi machine gun in one hand and an empty bag in the other demanding they fill it up with jewelry and money. After having collected his loot the robber would force the patrons to drop their pants as he made his escape to a car waiting outside. For Tommy and Rosemarie this seemed like a pleasant night out.
One pleasant night out of many more to come. Once they developed a routine and felt more secure they became bolder in their actions. As Thom L. Jones writes, “On one occasion, Uva allegedly Uzi-whipped a slow delivering victim in a Little Italy club, and then really pushing the envelope, in another club, Tommy knocked off the toupee of one of the older gangsters who was slow to react to his demands. This may well have been the proverbial straw breaking the camel’s back. Robbing a Mafia social club was definitely a no-no. Making guys embarrass themselves by leaving them half-naked was off the wall. But to mess with an old guy’s rug meant all-out war!”
On the early morning of Christmas Eve, 1992, the Uvas stop their car in front of a stoplight. “Just before the traffic signals change, two men approach the car and raising handguns, begin shooting into the vehicle through the windows. Each of the passengers is hit in the head, three times, dying instantly. The driver slumps forward over the steering wheel, pressing down on the accelerator and the Mercury moves forward, wheeling at an angle across the intersection, colliding with another vehicle before it stops against the curb outside a house.”
And that is why you don’t rob mob social clubs.
(There is a lot more to this story and I urge you to read Thom L. Jones’ account of how the mob finally paid the Uvas back in lead.)
Number 1: Burglarizing the home of Chicago’s top mob boss
Say you are a burglar and you are looking for a good score. What are some of the points you have to take into consideration? Your target needs to have valuables of course. The target house isn’t located near or next to a police station, is another good one. Also, your target shouldn’t have a lot of dogs and/or an intricate alarm system you are unable to crack. And maybe, just maybe, it would be nice if your target didn’t run the entire criminal underworld of the city you are working in.
Yet, that is exactly what a bunch of professional thieves and burglars from Chicago did in January of 1978. They burglarized the residence of Anthony Accardo (right), boss of the city’s mob family. A man who received the nickname “Joe Batters” from none other than Al Capone because he had displayed such a talent for bashing in a rival’s head with a baseball bat.
Decades after he had earned that nickname, he had risen to the top himself. In his early 70s, he bought a twenty-two room mansion at 915 Franklin Avenue for $125,000. The house was built by a millionaire manufacturer in 1930 for $500.000. Being a mob boss has its perks.
The house included high vaulted rooms, an indoor pool, a gun and trophy room, a pipe organ, a walk in safe, wood spiral staircases, carriage and guest houses on the backyard half acre. It was surrounded by a seven-foot-high wrought iron fence and two electrically controlled gates. After moving in, Accardo added a $10,000 black onyx bathtub and an indoor, two-lane bowling alley. He had the plumbing refitted with gold fixtures and added a massive barbecue pit to the backyard.
It was the perfect place to break into.
The burglars in question did not enter the place pure for profit. They wanted to get revenge. A while back they had made a great score: $1 million in jewelry. But the guy they robbed was a friend of Accardo and so they had to return all of the jewels. Pissed off they decided to burglarize the mob boss’ home. That’ll show him who’s boss!
After discovering the break in, Accardo contacted his top enforcer at the time, Anthony “The Ant” Spilotro (left), who was portrayed by Joe Pesci in the movie Casino, and told him to go to work.
Pretty soon the badly tortured and mutilated dead bodies of everyone linked to the break in were turning up in the streets of Chicago. One man’s throat had been slashed from ear to ear and he had been shot four times. Another had also been slashed from ear to ear, but instead of being shot, he had multiple stab wounds. An Italian member of the group was made an example of. As an Italian he should’ve known better. He was castrated and disemboweled. His face had been burned off with an acetylene torch. They also slashed his throat. Seven thieves ended up murdered.
And when the man Accardo had assigned to watch his house was called to testify in front of a grand jury hearing he vanished never to be seen ever again.
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